Unbelayvable: Belayer Snack Breaks And Prusik Perils

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Kevin Corrigan
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Every Monday we publish the most unbelievable stories of climbing stupidity submitted by our readers. See something unbelayvable? Tell us in the comments and your story could be featured in a future edition online or in print.

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Two hands good, no hands bad.
Photo: hkanins/Flickr. http://ow.ly/x1gjk

>>I was climbing in El Potrero Chico when I overheard a couple nearby setting up for Graphite and Glitter (5.8) “Have you ever belayed with a grigri?” “No.” His lesson was going well until he got to catching a fall. “If I’m climbing up the wall and I fall, YOU JUST LET GO!” He punctuated this by raising his open palms to the sky. —Submitted by Craig Childre, via email

LESSON: No. Don’t let go. The grigri is not an auto-braking device, it’s an assisted braking device. While the grigri will lock automatically in most situations, there are a few scenarios where it will not: 1) with super-skinny ropes; 2) an extremely light climber; 3) routes with bulges or significant rope drag that reduce the forces of a fall; and 4) hanging on the rope (versus falling) mid-route. Furthermore, holding your hand in the brake position helps the grigri’s cam engage rapidly. Never take your hand off the brake strand. Even if the grigri did brake automatically 100% of the time, it would be a bad habit to get into for those times when you're belaying with a tube-style device. For more info, check out Learn Proper Techniques For Grigri Use.

>>Some friends saw this in the Gunks: A climber was leading a route. He got to a good ledge for his hands. The belayer asked, “Are you solid?” The climber responded, “Yes. I’m solid.” Then the belayer unclipped his belay device and went to get a snack as his climber was shaking out. —Submitted by NJ Climbing Staff, via climbing.com

LESSON: There's only one scenario where it's OK to take your climber off belay, and that's if your climber yells "off belay." As a climber, you should never allow your belayer to take you off belay unless you're clipped direct into an anchor or on the top of the cliff, far away from the edge. Don't allow your belayer to put your life in danger because they want a Snickers bar. It doesn't matter how bomber the jugs you're holding are. They can wait an extra five minutes for you to get to the top of your pitch.

>>I was climbing at Reimer’s Ranch near Austin, TX, and I saw a climber about to rap off of an easy route. The problem was that he had only pulled 10 feet of rope through the anchor and the climb was 50 feet high (no knots in the ends of the rope, obviously). He was about five feet from the end of the short strand when I saw him and screamed for him to stop. I told him what the problem was, but he explained that it was fine because he had backed up his rappel with a prusik. I convinced him to clip in direct to a bolt and get both ends of the rope on the ground before he continued. He did it, but he still had no clue what was going on. He thanked me an hour later after his friends explained it to him. —Submitted by Adam, via Climbing.com

LESSON: Prusiks are a great tool for backing up rappels. In the case of lost grip—due to injury from rockfall, lightning, or simple fatigue or pilot error—the knot will lock, keeping you from sliding down the rope. They do not prevent your from rapping off the end of the rope. In the situation above, the end of the rope would slide right through the prusik, then through the rappel device, and the climber would fall to the ground. Knotting the ends of the rope would prevent a fall (and should always be done), but would still leave the climber stuck 40 feet off the deck. That's not great, either. Had the climber taken the time to center his rope in the anchors and ensure both ends reached the ground before beginning, he wouldn't need to depend on his backup systems in the first place, which is always the most desirable scenario. For more info, check out this article about friction hitches.

See something unbelayvable?Tell us in the comments and your story could be featured in a future edition online or in print.